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Pepperdine showcases quarter-century worth of acquired artworks
The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University will display “Process and Reality: Works from the Permanent Collection, Celebrating 25 Years of Acquisitions” through Aug. 6.
The exhibition was inspired by “Process and Reality,” a landmark book by the early 20th Century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He believed that reality is not a fixed thing, but consists of complex, interlocking processes. This theme is used to chart connections between Process art — mostly abstract work where the emphasis is on simple materials and direct methods of construction — and expressive Realism — where artists draw upon their own psychological processes to shape their view of the world. Both poles — the abstract and the real — draw upon human subjectivity as the ultimate organic source of these powerful creative trends.
Highlights of the exhibit include early work from the 1970s by Ed Moses and Mary Corse; a rare Tony Berlant assemblage from 1964 revealing the inspiration of Ed Keinholz; an Ed Keinholz construction addressing the disparity between American affluence and Third World poverty; and a 1982 work on paper by pioneering street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, which ranks among the artist’s best drawings.
Process Art became an important movement in the 1970s, when artists became fascinated with the simple properties of basic non-art materials, such as resin, wax and wood. They downplayed the artist’s role in consciously controlling the finished work and allowed materials to assume random and accidental forms. The resulting artworks emphasize natural textures and explore dynamic concepts of transience and change.
Key examples of pioneering Process art include early works by seminal LA artists Ed Moses and Mary Corse. Moses’ “Culver Track A Section I” (1973-74) is an impressive large-scale, example of his minimalist style, featuring repetitive diagonals, (inspired by Navajo blankets) rendered in paper and resin. “Light and Space” painter Mary Corse is represented by an early black-on-black canvas from her “Glitter” series from 1976 that alters our sense of light and surface.
Reality is a more open-ended term that has manifested itself in recent art in varied and often diametrical ways. For the Process artists, reality resides in the physical reality of materials. These artists create abstract compositions where essential matter is left in a raw, primal state.
For others, reality involves traditional realism. These “realists” use the language of representational art to probe and comment on the world around us.
Subjective Realism is represented by two works by veteran Los Angeles artist Lynn Foulkes. His “Greetings from Hogback Mountain” (1963) is part of a series of anti-postcards that show America as a barren wasteland. Another artist who exposed the emptiness of the American dream is John Register. His paintings focus on quiet, empty places, devoid of people. His view of downtown Chicago should be bustling but is vacant, creating a mood of existential loneliness.
Although it has roots in the late 19th century, expressionism continues to inspire contemporary artists who use the physical process of handling paint as an extension of their selves. One highlight of the exhibition is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” (1982), a black and green crayon drawing that features all of the key themes of his work. Lists of African-American boxers, a Lincoln penny, and banners celebrating the name Jackie Robinson draw attention to the key theme in his art: what it is like for a young black man to live in a dominant white culture.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Op artist Julian Stanczak (1928-2017), subject of a 50-year retrospective at the Weisman Museum of Art in 2001.
Funding for the exhibition was provided by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.
Works are on view in the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art’s Gregg G. Juarez, West and Wilson galleries.
Located on Pepperdine’s main campus at 24255 PCH in Malibu, the museum is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m.,Tuesday-Sunday, and is closed on Mondays and major holidays. There is no admission charge.
For more information, call (310) 506-4851, or visit arts.pepperdine.edu/museum.